Zeroing in on the right tree for your landscape
The most thorough way to select a tree, or almost any plant for that matter, is to start with the widest range of options available and, through the process of elimination, narrow down the field until just a few “best fit” choices remain. A logical pool to begin with is one which looks at plants appropriate to the region. Noting the local USDA hardiness zone and looking at which plants thrive there will likely render a rather overwhelming offering of choices, but having a comprehensive list of plants will set the stage for the next round of criteria.
Be aware of the site’s microclimate. Armed with an outline of the conditions that will affect plant health, it is possible to begin crossing off the ones that simply will not work here. Are the soils typically damp due to being in a low-lying area, or are they sandy and dry? Do not hesitate to have the soil tested if the type is unknown. Look also at the shade patterns. Will the tree get enough sun during the day, or are shade tolerant varieties more appropriate? Narrow the choices to trees that are amenable to the environmental conditions and microclimate.
Next, assess the available space on an aerial or plot plan to see how room there is for a mature tree. Note the proximity of all structures, utility lines, and any other physical element that could pose a challenge and restrict the tree’s growth. Look vertically, too, and determine whether a tree’s height might conflict with overhead power lines, roof eaves, or even other trees. If shade is the goal, eliminate from the running trees that are too small or have low branching habits.
Finally, decide what characteristics are most desirable, such as foliage color, vibrant blooms, or ornamental bark. Consider the true function of the tree, whether for shade, to screen or buffer adjacent properties, or to complement architecture, and evaluate which trees’ foliage, form, and overall look can help meet those goals.
Online resources and plant guides from the local library are an excellent starting point in discovering all the options and evaluating which are best for the particular site. A local Santa Barbara landscaper, too, can help choose the right tree for the space and to achieve the homeowner’s vision.